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Where's Big Brother?

Orwell's nightmare won't be coming to the Internet anytime soon.

This story appears in the July 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Whose job should it be to see that terrorists don't unleash a computer virus that cripples the air traffic control system? Who will prevent enemy nations from stealing nuclear weapons secrets from U.S. government computers over the Internet? Who should keep rival entrepreneurs from downloading trade secrets from your company's computers or those of another firm? Who should regulate the Internet?

Right now, the closest thing to a global Internet regulatory body is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a private organization based in Marina Del Rey, California. But ICANN isn't much of a regulator. It's concerned with how to set up and run the domain-name system that gives us .com, .org and .net as well as country-connected domain names such as .uk for the United Kingdom and newer domains like .biz. "We don't really regulate," says ICANN's Mary Hewitt. "We're a technical coordinating body." The organization has just half a dozen employees and an annual budget of $5 million, scarcely sufficient to coordinate the concerns of its 243 member governments, from Ascension Island (.ac) to Zimbabwe (.zw). Its interest in security is to protect the small number of global high-level domain-name servers.

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